Call it the Anthropocene, the MisAnthropocene (PDF), the Capitalcene, a Raven's Trick, a Charismatic Mega-Category, or the Chthulucene: Anthropologists are engaging with the new Epoch. [more inside]
Delhi Closes Over 1,800 Schools in Response to Dangerous Smog [The New York Times] “For the first time ever, more than 1,800 public primary schools in India’s capital will close on Saturday to protect children from exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution, the authorities said on Friday. The decision affects more than a million children. A thick, acrid smog has settled over the capital over the past week, a combination of smoke from burning crops in surrounding agricultural states, fireworks on the Hindu festival of Diwali, dust and vehicle emissions. Levels of the most dangerous particles, called PM 2.5, reached 600 micrograms per cubic meter in different parts of the city this week, according to the Delhi Pollution Control Committee. Sustained exposure to that concentration of PM 2.5 is equivalent to smoking 40 cigarettes a day, said Sarath Guttikunda, the director of Urban Emissions, an independent research group.” [more inside]
For the first time the true scale has been revealed of a coldly calculated, deliberate and sustained scheme by scores of Volkswagen executives and engineers to defraud American car buyers and deceive American regulators.
Alaska is Having Its Hottest Year Since Records Began - "After a spring that was a full ten degrees hotter than normal, the northern state is on track for the most sweltering year on record." (via) [more inside]
Work by University of Toronto researcher Marianne Hatzopoulou "shows cyclists are particularly vulnerable to the risks posed by air pollution — higher levels of breast and prostate cancer being among them. Cyclists, she said, 'tend to have higher breathing rates than other pedestrians, so whatever they’re inhaling is going deeper into their lungs.'" And some of the most popular routes she studied were also the most polluted. [more inside]
Considering the constant fatalities, rampant pollution, and exorbitant costs of ownership, there is no better word to characterize the car’s dominance than insane. "The car is the star. That’s been true for well over a century—unrivaled staying power for an industrial-age, pistons-and-brute-force machine in an era so dominated by silicon and software. Cars conquered the daily culture of American life back when top hats and child labor were in vogue, and well ahead of such other innovations as radio, plastic, refrigerators, the electrical grid, and women’s suffrage. A big part of why they’ve stuck around is that they are the epitome of convenience." [more inside]
For the moment, the fate of the Clean Power Plan — and the question of just how capable the United States is of self-governance — remains uncertain. The Supreme Court ordered the Plan to be temporarily halted, most likely until the Court hands down an opinion on the legality of the Plan in June of 2017. If the Plan survives the next presidential election, and if it is ultimately upheld by the Court, then Tuesday’s order will only succeed in delaying the new rules. If the Court ultimately strikes down the Plan, however, the United States could be left impotent in the face of a looming catastrophe — and not just with respect to this particular catastrophe. The states challenging the Clean Power Plan call for sweeping changes to the balance of power between the regulator and the regulated. Indeed, if some of their most aggressive arguments succeed, it’s unclear that the federal government is permitted to do much of anything at all.-Ian Millhiser for ThinkProgress, "Inside The Most Important Supreme Court Case In Human History"
Planning a romantic evening, a night of meteor watching or taking pictures of the milky way or auroras? Want to know the closest, darkest place to observe the night sky? Consult the Light Pollution Atlas for the darkest viewing areas near you. Yes, even those of us residing outside the borders of the USA. [more inside]
In 1998, Rob Bilott, an environmental lawyer, took the case of Wilbur Tennant, a cattle farmer who believed DuPont chemical dumping was killing his livestock. Internal documents would reveal that DuPont had known for decades that the chemical—PFOA, used in the manufacture of Teflon—was highly toxic, connected to organ failure, birth defects, cancer, and more. DuPont decided to keep using it anyway. Factory workers were poisoned, as was the water supply of 70,000 people; the scale may be even greater, as “by 2003 the average concentration of PFOA in the blood of an adult American was four to five parts per billion”.
Two months in, Porter Ranch [California] gas leak compared to BP Gulf oil spill: More than 1,800 families have been relocated by the gas company and more than 1,000 remain on a waiting list. Some say they can’t remember a displacement of residents this large since the Northridge earthquake in 1994, when 20,000 people were left homeless. Two local elementary schools have been impacted, with nearly 2,000 schoolchildren and staff slated to be moved to other schools in January. Enough methane gas is being released to fill the Empire State building each day, state officials have said, and the concern has even reached the Federal Aviation Administration, which issued temporary flight restrictions over the area for small aircraft and helicopters. [more inside]
This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a bronchial spasm. That is, at least, according to William Delisle Hay’s 1880 novella The Doom of the Great City. It imagines the entire population of London choked to death under a soot-filled fog. The story is told by the event’s lone survivor sixty years later as he recalls “the greatest calamity that perhaps this earth has ever witnessed” at what was, for Hay’s first readers, the distant future date of 1942. -- Brett Beasley in the Public Domain review on one of the first modern urban apocalypse stories.
The Messengers Discussing grief and guilt and hope for the environment with a photographer who takes pictures of albatrosses that have died from ingesting plastic.
On August 5th, EPA workers and contractors from Environmental Restoration accidentally released 3 million gallons of mine wastewater -- including massive amounts of arsenic, cadmium, and lead -- into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River and part of the Colorado River Basin. The visible toxic plume took nearly a week to dissipate, and the EPA says that the river nearest the spill "has returned to pre-event water quality levels." [more inside]
"In some ways, C8 already is the tobacco of the chemical industry — a substance whose health effects were the subject of a decades-long corporate cover-up." An investigative report from The Intercept examines the secret history of a toxic byproduct of the chemical manufacturing industry that has recently come to light due to a mass of pending lawsuits.
De Kort used GPS to plow 150 perfectly straight and symmetrical furrows with six foot high ridges between them. In the valleys, he built mini parks and bike paths. He also incorporated art pieces that drew on the history of the project, like “Listening Ear,” a parabolic dish that is large enough to stand in. The sculpture amplifies the ambient sound, a nod to the park’s purpose of deflecting that noise.How Schiphol tries to solve noise pollution: landscape art.
"If all the other schools have a dome, then we’ve got to have a dome." Inside Beijing's airpocalypse, a city made 'almost uninhabitable' by pollution
Bangladesh is struggling to clean up an oil spill that threatens environmental damage in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest and home to rare Bengal tigers and river dolphins. [more inside]
“In shadow of oil boom, North Dakota farmers fight contamination” by Laura Gottesdiener for Al Jazeera reports on the conditions faced by farmers in Bottineau County when their fields become polluted with the waste-water from oil drilling operations. [more inside]
Invertebrate numbers nearly halve as human population doubles. The decline of birds might have something to do with this recent news that half the insects (and spiders, crustaceans, slugs, worms) are gone.
Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it. [more inside]
Slate: "Prius Repellent is a perfect introduction to one of the Obama era’s great conservative subcultures: the men and women who “roll coal.” For as little as $500, anyone with a diesel truck and a dream can install a smoke stack and the equipment that lets a driver “trick the engine” into needing more fuel. The result is a burst of black smoke that doubles as a political or cultural statement—a protest against the EPA, a ritual shaming of hybrid “rice burners,” and a stellar source of truck memes." [more inside]
They're a threat to the environment and dangerous as hell. There's got to be a better way to celebrate.
Look, I’m an environmental reporter, and as such it is practically in my job description to be a killjoy. For this I am sorry. It’s not like I won’t personally be enjoying the fireworks over the East River — which at least can’t get any more polluted than it already is — but I won’t be able to do so without nagging self-admonishments about how fireworks are actually kind of stupid.… Now, as is my professional duty, I pass these nagging thoughts on to you.
It appears that we're doing a bit better... "After ten years in orbit, the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA's Aura satellite has been in orbit sufficiently long to show that people in major U.S. cities are breathing less nitrogen dioxide – a yellow-brown gas that can cause respiratory problems."
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
Why Are Twenty Far-Away States Trying To Block The Cleanup Of The Chesapeake Bay? After 30 years of attempts, a serious initiative to save the bay exists in the form of an EPA-led plan that limits the amount of agricultural nutrients entering the bay. This pollution causes the "dead zones" in the bay, which are so low in oxygen virtually no animal life can survive. A group of twenty-one Attorneys General, including the AG of Alaska and Wyoming, "argue that the cleanup plan raises serious concerns about states’ rights, and they worry that if the plan is left to stand, the EPA could enact similar pollution limits on watersheds such as the Mississippi." Their actions are in line with the wishes of The American Farm Bureau, a powerful agricultural interest group. [more inside]
Factcheck: The Keystone XL Project. An evenhanded summary of the controversy around the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
It turns out that fish may need bicycles after all. Or, more accurately, fish need more bicyclists, and fewer motorists. "Water pollution attributable to automobiles includes oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, antifreeze, [copper], etc." (via rootsimple.com) See also
China's air pollution is now so bad it "resembles nuclear winter", say Chinese scientists. The pollution is impeding photosynthesis and potentially wreaking havoc on the country's food supply. [more inside]
Here's a multi-media webpage (text and photos, plus scroll down for the enlightening and well-made video) that spells out what's going on right now down Texas way: Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas.
Sina, one of the biggest websites in China, is hosting its annual photojournalism contest. The subjects range from: urban pollution, a SARS patient 10 years on, construction & destruction, the biggest fur market in China (warning: somewhat graphic), "The World" amusement park, erstwhile beggars, incense makers, more workers, and a school on the Loess.
My favorite two: hermits and mothers who pump.
My favorite two: hermits and mothers who pump.
According to an article in the South China Morning Post, "fog" in Northern China is so bad that the government is finding it interferes with surveillance cameras. (via Quartz.com and mefi's own @ftrain)
Dr Bruce Ames, a toxicologist and one of the world's most cited scientists, discusses the impact of his Ames test, "toxic chemicals," and scaremongering [more inside]
A Water Storage Nightmare: Fukushima Daiichi is back in the news. "Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an 'emergency' that the operator is struggling to contain."
"We were basically incorporated to be a sewer." The small village of Monsanto, Illinois was incorporated in 1926 to be a low-regulated tax haven for Monsanto Company's chemical plants. These days it's named Sauget, after the family which runs virtually every aspect of it—its real estate, its minor league baseball team (which plays on Sauget Field), and several of its nightclubs, of which there are so many that they are collectively known as the Sauget Ballet. The town's pollution has led to numerous lawsuits, and inspired the song Sauget Wind by alt-country group Uncle Tupelo. [more inside]
Forest fires due to slash and burn farming in Sumatra, Indonesia have led to unprecedented air pollution levels in Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore particularly, Facebook and Twitter are aflame as well. For a country used to very clean air, the sudden pollution has led to public outcry, with air purifiers and face masks being snatched off the shelves. So far, no stop-work-order has been issued, and there are complaints that the government is not tackling the situation rapidly enough. Indonesia is working to put out the fires and is considering cloud seeding; their response to pressure from Singapore to do more was that Singaporeans should stop behaving like children and not disturb their domestic affairs. While image macros about the 2013 haze continue to fill up Facebook feeds, some people are taking the whole affair in a more irreverent way. [more inside]
In the deep sea, low oxygen levels, scarce sunlight, and freezing water limit the rate at which items decompose: Something that might survive a few years on land could exist for decades underwater. - ROVs photograph trash on the ocean floor.
Scientific American reports: "An isolated population of Arctic foxes that dines only on marine animals seems to be slowly succumbing to mercury poisoning." Though a definitive causal link is difficult to establish, an isolated population of arctic foxes on Russia's Mednyi Island is believed to be collapsing due to mercury contamination as a result of its seafood-heavy diet. Where does all that mercury in the environment come from anyway? Why, it's another biproduct of burning fossil fuels, of course, and predictably, rates of mercury pollution are only expected to increase. In some places in the US, even rainwater is showing high levels of contamination. [more inside]
The Forces Of The Next 30 Years - SF author and Mefi's Own Charles Stross talks to students at Olin College about sci-fi, fiction, speculation, the limits of computation, thermodynamics, Moore's Law, the history of travel, employment, automation, free trade, demographics, the developing world, privacy, and climate change in trying to answer the question What Does The World Of 2043 Look Like? (Youtube 56:43)
291 diseases and injuries + 67 risk factors + 1,160 non-fatal complications = 650 million estimates of how we age, sicken, and die
As humans live longer, what ails us isn't necessarily what kills us: five data visualizations of how we age, sicken, and die. Causes of death by age, sex, region, and year. Heat map of leading causes and risks by region. Changes in leading causes and risks between 1990 and 2010. Healthy years lost to disability vs. life expectancy in 1990 and 2010. Uncertainties of causes and risks. From the team for the massive Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010. [more inside]
I think I mentioned we also saw an actual knife fight in this same alley! With big giant meat cleavers!
Davesecretary of TIME FOR SOME STORIES fame (previously) decided to spend a year in a smallish Chinese city to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He slowly realizes that he's not having a very good time.
I love a sun-powered country, A land of deepening mines, of ragged nuclear plants, of biomass and hydropower
While developed countries are pondering whether they should sign up to The Kyoto 2 Protocol and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by 2020, based on 2000 levels which may be of questionable impact, the tiny Pacific territory of Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power, becoming the first nation in the world to do so, at a time when the global energy systems of the 21C are struggling towards decarbonisation. [more inside]
Cargo bikes, long a mainstay in the Netherlands and emerging as an automotive alternative in the U.S. (via bike-friendly Portland), come in many flavors: Longtails, longjohns, cycle trucks, porteurs, trikes and the traditional Dutch bakfiet. Will a cargo bike transform your life?
Have you ever been in a room with lots of people and not great ventilation. Or even a room with normal ventilation. You may be cognitively impaired due to elevated levels of CO2 once considered safe now thought enough to make you a little dumb. 600ppm is now thought too much, but “there are plenty of buildings where you could easily see 2,500 ppm of CO2 — or close to it — even with ventilation designs that are fully compliant with current standards.. classrooms frequently exceed 1,000ppm." [more inside]
Imagine a lake so polluted and contaminated that spending just an hour on its shores would result in certain death, and the only way seen fit to deal with it is to fill the entire water body with concrete blocks to keep the toxic soil underneath from moving onshore. That lake is Lake Karachay in Russia’s Chelyabinsk Oblast, and it is considered by many to be the most polluted place on the planet.
"Of all the things the Internet was expected to become, it is safe to say that a seed for the proliferation of backup diesel generators was not one of them." Power, Pollution and the Internet [sl NY Times]